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Ready-Set-Tech: On the Run - What was necessary to plan an escape from slavery in 18th century America?

Marion Peluso, P.S. 101, Brooklyn, New York

Grade Level  6 - 8
Subject Social Studies
Background Most educators steer away from topics such as slavery due to its sensitive nature. Nevertheless, it is a part of our country’s history. It is important for students to recognize the attempts and sacrifices made by people under the most dire of circumstances. It is important for students to then connect within themselves the power to fight the injustices of our world today.

Identify characteristics of runaway slaves in the 18th century.
Construct a plan of how a slave might be successful in running away.

Materials Internet access, On The Run worksheet.

1. Generate a discussion of running away by asking the following questions:

What would you take with you if you were planning to escape?
Where would you go?
How would you get away?
What means would you use in your escape?

2. Have students read A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper  to understand what one slave's experience with escape was like.

3. Then have students select any 5 advertisements from the Virginia Runaways Digital Project (searchable database of newspaper announcements of runaway and captured slaves from 18th-century Virginia newspapers.)  and fill out the On The Run worksheet.

4. Have students construct a plan for running away from captivity. In order to make this activity meaningful students will need some context for which to develop their plan. The context will take the form of a story with characters, setting, and a plot.

Evaluation Have students write a short journal entry that describes a slave's plan to run away. This journal entry should include information about what a slave would need to be successful, such as: clothes, tools, skills, and language proficiency, or friends. In addition, the description should include an indication of the best time to run away and a general description of how a run away could travel from place to place. The description could take the form of a plan or an anecdote or could be more detached and general. Students' descriptions should be narrative and not a list.


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